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News & Natural Resources: August (and September so far)

A monthly round-up of the latest news relating to natural resource governance issues. You can also read the original version of this blog on my website.

News from around the world

  • Are Albertans receiving a fair share of the oilsands wealth? James Wilt investigates for the Narwhal, using some of the latest data to be disclosed through Canada’s mandatory disclosure laws (The Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA)).
  • A legal victory for the Awajún and Wampis peoples in Peru, where a court decided in their favour and ruled that all oil and gas operations at block 116 are to remain suspended. The ruling requires that the indigenous communities be properly consulted, and new environmental impact assessments conducted, before activities can resume. (Spanish readers can see this article for more details).
  • Burkina Faso lost out on US$16 million dollars in royalties “thanks to a special low tax deal” agreed upon in the 1990s, according to an investigation by Finance Uncovered and Cenozo. The stability clause meant that the new royalty rates of 2010 (introduced to reflect an increase in commodity prices) were not applied to the Taparko gold mine.
  • Another tax arrangement receiving scrutiny is the UK’s planned transferable tax history scheme, intended to incentivise extraction in the mature North Sea basin. However, a former Chevron executive has said that the way the scheme has been designed could lead to the Treasury losing out on up to £3 billion in tax over the next decade.
  • A former oil trader from Gunvor was found guilty of bribing officials in Côte d’Ivoire and the Republic of Congo for access to oil shipments. Public Eye, a Swiss NGO, spent two years investigating Gunvor’s activities in Congo – see their report.
  • In a growing number of countries, companies are publishing the payments they make to resource-producing countries. But how can you use this data to ensure a better management of natural resources? Global Witness has developed a handbook to help people use project-level data to better hold companies and governments to account. Check it out.

Tax havens - also an environmental issue?


It’s now common knowledge that tax havens drain governments of important revenue – the OECD estimates that developing countries lose out on US$200 billion a year due to tax avoidance. But a new report illustrates how money routed through tax havens is also being used to “fund environmentally destructive activities” such as illegal fishing and deforestation. (The Guardian)

Stories on contract transparency


There’s been a fair few stories on extractive contract transparency in the news this August:

  • In Trinidad & Tobago, an editorial celebrates the historic signing of the Dragon Field gas contract. However it also called on the government to join in the “new culture of contract transparency” and disclose the details of the deal. Upon being asked about the gas price agreed, the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley responded that it was “competitive”.
  • When it comes to contract transparency, the journey between public commitment and contracts actually being available to the public can be a long one. Take the case of Malawi: in 2015, the government declared that it would publish extractive contracts, but it took several years and lots of campaigning for that promise to be realised. See Rachel Etter-Phoya’s article relating that journey.
  • In Mali, the national Publish What You Pay coalition and the Office of the Auditor General are calling for a more comprehensive disclosure of mining agreements. The details of mining agreements can help ensure companies are meeting their social and environmental commitments, and “help improve the monitoring of revenues received by local government.”

Events and opportunities

  • If you’re working on social change issues and are based in Sub-Saharan Africa or Latin America and the Caribbean, you may want to check out the Engine Room’s Matchbox Partnerships. Through these partnerships the Engine Room supports organisations over a 12 – 18 month period, helping them across themes including organisational strengthening, project and design implementation, and data and tech intuition (dl 28 September).
  • Want to know how extractives data can help you hold companies and governments to account? Global Witness is hosting a webinar outlining the key principles and methodologies contained in their new handbook on how to use  project-level data. The webinar will be in English on 26th September, find out more here.


 

 

 

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